8th Annual 4-Stste Governmental Affairs Meeting and Follow-up Activities
By Lyle Christensen, NWEA GA Committee Member
The 8th Annual 4-State Governmental Affairs Meeting was held on September 17, 2014 at the EPA Region 7 office at 11201 Renner Blvd, Lenexa, KS. There were a total of 34 on-site attendees as follows: EPA Region 7 (10 attendees); Water Environment Federation Headquarters (WEF HQ, 1 attendee), Claudio Ternieden; his second year in attendance and who “This Week in Washington” newsletters; State regulatory officials: KDHE (1 attendee), MDNR (2 attendees), IDNR (1 attendee), and NDEQ (5 attendees: Marty Link, Steve Goans, John Bender, Reuel Anderson, and Blake Onken); Governmental Affairs Committees: KWEA (2 attendees), MWEA (4 attendees), IAWEA (2 attendees), and NWEA (4 attendees: Gary Brandt, Todd Boling, Mike Milius, and Lyle Christensen); the Missouri Public Utility Alliance (1 attendee); and the Iowa League of Cities (1 attendee).
The following photographs were taken by Todd Boling of NWEA and show the majority of attendees.
The meeting covered pre-selected regulatory “hot topics” for a meeting span of over 4 hours:
• Lake Nutrients, Ammonia Criteria, and Anti-degradation Introduction)ssues (Missouri Introduction)
• New Loan/Grant funding & Sustainability Requirements (Nebraska Itroduction)
Missouri’s Anti-degradation (Anti-deg) procedures incorporate alternatives analyses that key into both technology-based limits and setting water quality limits based on performance of treatment. The analyses must include “minimum degrading” evaluations that are intended to produce lower limits that would otherwise occur with technology-based limits. MDNR also does a companion modeling exercise for dissolved oxygen to make sure that the receiving stream is protected. There is a new Missouri legislative bill that requires an affordability (cost of compliance) analysis for municipal wastewater and MS4 sources.
There is an effort by MDNR to redefine nutrient criteria to match up with beneficial uses, which include drinking water supply for taste and odor and algal toxins; whole body contact recreational use based on transparency (Secchi disk reading) of the water; and aquatic life protection of the resident sports fish. Total nitrogen and chlorophyll “a” criteria are based on multipliers for the baseline phosphorus criteria.
NDEQ highlighted new EPA requirements for SRF loan and grant funding and sustainability requirements that will apply to all applications. A Fiscal Sustainability Plan (FSP) will need to be submitted to augment the funding application. An FSP will need to include as a minimum: An inventory of critical assets that are part of the treatment works; an evaluation of the condition and performance of inventoried assets or asset groupings; a certification that the assistance recipient has evaluated and will be implementing water and energy conservation efforts as part of the FSP; a plan for maintaining, repairing, and, as necessary, replacing the treatment works; and a plan for funding such activities. It was acknowledged that new SRF loan applications that now require an FSP will face stiff competition from private sector funding rates that have no such requirements. However, FSP study cost can be included with the requested loan amount.
EPA staff covered a rather lengthy list of upcoming regulatory priorities. Of all prior proposed rules, the “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) Proposed Rule (co-authored by EPA and the USACE) has by far set a new record for the number of formal comments received (over 1 million). The NWEA GA Committee drafted formal comments on the proposed WOTUS rule last summer, but held back its submittal due to the large number of comments already received by EPA. However, at the 4-State Meeting, EPA Region 7 and Claudio Ternieden of WEF strongly encouraged the 4-State GA Committees to go ahead and submit the comments. Accordingly, the 4-State GA Committees provided a final review of the draft document, provided some suggested edits, and endorsed it for submittal to EPA, which was formally submitted on October 27, 2014. WEF, in turn, utilized a number of the comments prepared by our 4-States GA Group in its own submittal to EPA. Again, the reader is encouraged to obtain a copy of both the 4-States GA WOTUS submittal and the WEF submittal, because there are certainly very important issues at hand that could significantly affect future wastewater and stormwater management.
Iowa has been aggressively pursuing its “Nutrient Reduction Strategy,” which includes overall state-wide reductions goals, including a goal of achieving technology-based limits of 10 mg/l Total Nitrogen and 1 mg/l Total Phosphorus from point-source dischargers or equivalent state-wide reduction goals. Iowa has engaged a long list of non-point source stakeholder groups. The need for on-going compensatory funding and implementation of nutrient trading concepts were discussed at length. Iowa’s program has been endorsed by EPA Region 7 as a good template for other States. However, KDHE noted that it was clear from past discussions with EPA and the Association of Clean Water Agencies (ACWA), that in the long term there will still be a need to work towards water quality based numeric criteria. It was also noted that the States need to “step up to the plate,” because only 2 of the 12 states in the Mississippi River Watershed have nutrient reduction plans to date.
KDHE opened discussion on the proposed new bacteria criteria, which are based on both a 30-day geometric mean and Statistical Threshold Value (STV). The STV is a 90th percentile value within a 30-day period, which is essentially a single sample maximum unless ≥ 10 samples per month are collected. So unless there are more than 10 samples gathered, the STV is essentially statistically worthless and can cause compliance problems. Flowing waters spike with bacteria during runoff events, and the new STV criterion becomes a problem due to limitations in the number of samples that can practically be obtained. On that basis, KDHE estimates that 100% of Kansas flowing waters would likely be considered impaired if the new criteria were to be adopted. Also, there would be higher cost impacts on WWTF infrastructure, depending on how limits are derived. If a facility is forced to daily limits, more safety factor has to be built into the disinfection process, which will drive cost sharply upward. An estimate prepared by Black & Veatch for the Kansas City, Kansas WWTF indicated that going from monthly to even a weekly limit would actually mean doubling the number of UV bulbs necessary to provide enough compliance safety factor.
KWEA provided an excellent discussion on internal wet weather blending via “auxiliary” advanced technology rapid treatment systems within WWTFs versus internal bypassing of traditional biological treatment directly from primary clarifier effluent to the disinfection process, which has traditionally been considered by EPA to be illegal. This continues to be a huge issue as a result of last year’s Iowa League of Cities case against EPA, whereby EPA’s jurisdictional authority was ruled to be limited to the final effluent only and does not extend to internal processes within WWTFs. The main emphasis of the KWEA discussion was that there is now a considerable amount of data that show favorable results using auxiliary treatment strategies, but a certain amount of doubt still persists about receiving stream and human health impacts due to the difficulty in obtaining representative and scientifically defensible cause-and-effect data. This will be an issue that will continue to evolve over time, including whether or not the Iowa League ruling will extend nation-wide beyond the boundaries of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.